BenQ Joybee 102R
With the Joybee 102R (available in 128MB and 256MB capacities), BenQ goes out on a stylish limb with a simple flash-based MP3 player that the company hopes will appeal to fashion-conscious mobile audio users. That said, while the Joybee 102R is big on style, it falls short on function.
The BenQ Joybee 102R resembles a miniature York Peppermint Patty (1.6 inches in diameter and 0.3 inch thick), and as indicated by the included lanyard-earbud combo, it's meant to be worn around the neck. Because of this design decision, the Joybee 102R's miniature headphone jack is designed to work only with the earbuds shipped with the product. So if you, like many of us, have a favorite set of headphones that you prefer, you'll have to trek down to Radio Shack to get an adapter. Of course, this also means that you'll go without using the Joybee 102R's lanyard and probably keep the device in your pocket. This would forgo the only reason why anyone would want the thing: to show it off. The player's sleek metallic casing, available in green, orange, and purple, certainly makes it worthy of being sported like a piece of jewelry, and at a mere half-ounce, it's not much heavier than most necklaces. It's a lot like the now-defunct but with prettier color options. However, the Virgin at least came with an armband, something we'd like to have seen included with the BenQ player, considering its fitness-friendly form.
This brings us to another point. When it comes to audio players, many users prefer function over form or at least give the two factors equal weight. While the Joybee 102R performed about as well as any other flash-based player in its price range (around $125 for the 256MB version), it lacks an LCD, so there's no way to really know what's going on with the device. As such, the device has no advanced features and few controls. On the left spine is a volume rocker, while on the right spine you'll find another rocker-type button that functions as the fast-forward, rewind, and play/pause/power controller. Because of the Joybee 102R's diminutive size, it's often difficult to distinguish which action you're affecting when you hit the various buttons, and if you have large fingers, you will have problems.
The Joybee 102R supports MP3, unprotected WMA, and WAV files, and it shows up as a removable drive in Windows Explorer, so getting songs onto the device is a simple drag-and-drop affair. The included USB cable plugs into the headphone jack, and the unit supports USB 2.0, but tunes transferred at a relatively slow 0.69MB per second. The player has a signal-to-noise ratio of 90dB, so it sounds good through the included earbud headphones.
In CNET Labs' tests, the BenQ Joybee 102R's rechargeable battery provided inconsistent results but never lasted more than 6.5 hours, which is significantly less than the manufacturer's rated time of as much as 10 hours.